The Heat of Breath by Camille E. Colpitts

In the Sequoia National Forest, fires are sometimes set on purpose.

Park Rangers will set off controlled fires throughout the park.

The seeds from the world’s tallest trees cannot grow without the heat of the fire.

The sirens are escalators of sound on this side of St. Paul, just east of the Mississippi.

Panicked police sirens. Wailing ambulances. Fevered fire trucks.

I wave at the firefighter with his eyes closed leaning over the window, exhausted from triple shifts. I learn the entire encyclopedia of siren etymology in just 48 hours.

I take a walk further east on Selby Ave, the Black part of Selby.

On the side of Selby away from the plumes of riot smoke on University Ave.

It has been two days of mourning. The funeral pyres have not ceased

I touch the scars on my belly: one baby born here, some organs gone there, and cancer spanning the width of me. These calcified lines tell a story I can’t muster the energy to share today.

Today I am a black mother, away from her child, lost to herself; I am in the fire this time.

My son’s middle name is Baldwin.

I try to walk with ease.

I take in wonder—the full exhale of spring greets my steps.

I need rest and it won’t come.

I’m still sobering up. I rub my veins.

I cannot protest today, probation tells me so. There are chains heavier than these.

Trauma converges in my nostrils as charred Nikes burn beautifully.

Northern stars come out as greens, reds, and blacks to chart more murals than all the rainbows have ever made.

George Floyd was a Tree.

Somewhere tonight, I walk away from the riot, to remember, trees sometimes need fire in order to breathe too.

Camille E. Colpitts (She/Her) is a Black-mixed southern-born, queer-fem mother and writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her writing centers on trauma, love, healing, and all the stuff in-between. She is committed to bettering her baby’s future. She is currently busy tinkering away at her memoir. Her work can be found in Electric Rail Lit. Mag., Nightingale & Sparrow, and Salt + Vinegar Zine online. She enjoys Andes Mints, preferably on pillows. IG/Twitter: @ofwafflesandmen

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: